Yesterday, for the first time (that I am aware of) I ran into someone who recognized me as Enchanted Zaftig. Although I have many friends who know and support my EZ mission, I’ve never before been approached by someone whom I have never met, who only knows me as Enchanted Zaftig.
It was in the frozen foods section of a grocery store that I never shop at. While navigating down the slightly cramped aisle, I approached a woman coming the opposite direction and tried my best to steer clear of her shopping cart with my own. As we passed, we made eye contact, and I smiled and said hello, because I like to smile and acknowledge people who take the time and have the confidence to meet my gaze. To my surprise, she stopped her cart and said my name. I turned to her, searching my memory for recognition, but her face was unfamiliar to me.
“I follow you on Facebook,” she said with a smile. “Your Enchanted Zaftig page.”
This news both took me by surprise and made me immensely happy. If a stranger in the frozen foods section of an obscure little grocery store recognizes me, then perhaps it’s safe to say that I’ve made some sort of impact with my Enchanted Zaftig project. No matter that I was in my weekend blue jeans and flip-flops at the time, with disheveled hair and no makeup and a cart full of random food items; I’ve always thought that if I could positively influence at least one person in this world, in this lifetime, then I’d feel accomplished in my ongoing efforts to inspire, spread knowledge and give encouragement to the women (and men) out there who feel oppressed and frustrated with societal body stigmas.
So to Miss Dora in the Sav-A-Lot aisle… I say “Thank You” … for stopping your grocery cart, for taking a moment to say hello to me, and for reaffirming my Enchanted Zaftig mission. I strongly believe that one positive connection begets another, and that those connections will eventually make a measurable impact on this world, creating social change and fostering an environment of love and acceptance.
Viva la Zaftig!
Jen McLellan, blogger, body-positive advocate and mentor to plus-size mothers-to-be, recently conducted the Cardboard Courage Project, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to denounce distorted body standards by stripping down and holding up signs of empowerment.
“Recently women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages came forward to participate with the Cardboard Courage project. This project aims to redefine the beauty standards that the media keeps pushing upon us. By stripping down, these women were empowered to stand courageously behind the messages they held up. Messages of body love, beauty, and strength. This is Cardboard Courage…”
Because of my own body-positive advocacy and continued determination to extinguish fat prejudice, I decided to join in on the project, emphasizing the Enchanted Zaftig motto, “Embrace Your Curves.” I am proud to be amongst such strong, beautiful women!
If you’d like to participate in the next Cardboard Courage Project, sign up for Jen’s newsletter here.
And remember: Your curves do not hinder you ~ they enhance you!
Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that a trip to the mall with her daughter had left her feeling old, outdated and fat. This friend is far from any of those adjectives. In fact, she’s beautiful, vivacious and perfectly shaped – not to mention she possesses an inner passion for life that touches all of those around her.
Her frustration with the shopping experience stemmed from several factors: 1.) She’d been shopping at a posh, overpriced mall in a pretentious part of town that caters to the wealthy and unrealistic. 2.) She’d been shopping with her 15-year-old daughter, who is tall, willowy and, as of yet, lacks the curves of a grown woman. And 3.) She’d been trying on clothes that should have fit her right, but, in her opinion, didn’t. “Victoria’s Secret makes nothing for a curvy body, at all. I tried on a bunch of dresses, and if it fit me on the top, it was too big everywhere else. If the everywhere-else fit, it didn’t fit my top.”
A mother-daughter shopping adventure that should have been fun and fulfilling, ended with my friend crying in the parking lot. Even though she admitted later that she felt ridiculous about it, she also admitted that she’s in a place right now where she can’t quite embrace her curves and would like to get back to a body weight that she’s comfortable with. To most anyone, she would never be viewed as fat, not even for an instant; the curves she possesses are beautiful reminders that she has two lovely children and a blessed, abundant life for which she can feel proud of. But her self-doubt rightfully belongs to her. She is entitled to own that emotion, and I respect this and don’t wish to diminish or in any way invalidate her frustration.
What struck me the most after reading her Facebook post is that, personally, I don’t experience the shopping mall dilemma. A woman who has been thin most of her life and finds herself carrying a few extra pounds will undoubtedly feel disheartened by the fact that the clothing size which once fit her perfectly now doesn’t fit right, if at all. But a woman who has been overweight in varying degrees for the majority of her life doesn’t feel as disheartened, because she’s learned and accepted over time not to be delusional about the clothes shopping experience. She’s stopped searching for a particular fashion trend, style or size and is simply searching for whatever will “do the trick,” hoping it won’t result in the dreaded potato-sack. Sadly, when you have lowered expectations, disappointment doesn’t come around as often. But it does make finding that perfect dress, blouse or bra that much more rewarding.
With shops like Lane Bryant and online specialty stores offering a vast range of sizes, finding flattering jeans, cute dresses and bras with the right fit has become much more attainable. Yesterday, I stopped into a Lane Bryant location I had not been to before and was surprised to see an entirely new look and layout: fashion-worthy blouses and slacks on strategically-placed chrome racks; bras and panties in every cut and style displayed beneath decorative chandeliers. Gone was the department store look. In its stead was a specialty boutique that resembled Victoria’s Secret – only with more abundance, realism and accessibility. Although, in my opinion, Lane Bryant would be better off sticking to its own unique branding technique, offering us plump women a pleasant place to shop where we’re both welcomed and accepted is something to give accolades for.
So to my beautiful friend who faced the disappointing shopping experience yesterday: I have compassion for you. I have compassion for every woman who finds herself without a familiar size at her favorite clothing boutique. I understand the difficulty in accepting your reflection in the dressing room mirror, even though it’s never as monstrous and unforgiving as you give it credit for. But know that there’s hope for finding an equilibrium of peace with your body. Look beyond the norm… think outside the box… become creative in your shopping endeavors. Don’t put too much stock in the pretentious, high-couture malls, where reality is shamefully skewed.
Getting to that place of embracing your curves is a journey not likely to be accomplished overnight, and it may even be exhausting and seem implausible. But have faith - once you arrive at it, the liberation is tangible.
Prolific artist Peter Illig recently completed this painting of me. The perspective he chose is compelling and leads one’s eyes down the canvas - as the title so aptly implies. With brilliant brush strokes and a colorful flare, I think he accurately captured the true essence of who I am: a smart, hip, voluptuous, sexy geek. N’est-ce pas?
48 x 30 oil on canvas
© 2014 Peter Illig
To view more of Peter’s artwork, visit www.peterillig.com.
Here is an excerpt from his artist statement:
“Centuries ago, the task of the artist was to portray and interpret the “real world.” Now, it is to discern if there is a reality behind the appearance of things. Reality is created by observation. This search through the stuff of the world, matter and flesh, is inherently erotic. The act of drawing and painting may also be seen as erotic. By immersing ourselves in the physical and material world, we may see the path to a higher realm, and find the spiritual meaning behind physical objects.”
Check it out!